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A Deeper Look At Martin, Kershaw, & Billingsley

Over the weekend at Dodger Thoughts, Jon Weisman pointed us to some in-depth information about Vicente Padilla from Ariball, a baseball scouting company that describes itself as so:

AriBall is the collaborative effort of Ari Kaplan -- California Institute of Technology’s Alumni of the Decade and an MLB consultant for two decades -- and Fred Claire, former General Manager of the LA Dodgers and distinguished member of the Club’s front office for 30 years.

In addition to working with teams and media outlets, Ariball scouted the Arizona Fall League, and has released a book with scouting reports on 81 different pitchers from the AFL.  They also have "scouting and advance reports for over 1,800 MLB batters, 790 MLB pitchers, 1,400 AAA batters, and 670 AAA pitchers." I'm never any good at spotting trends while watching a game, so these types of reports are always interesting to me.  I contacted Ari Kaplan, who was kind enough to provide us with some scouting reports on a few Dodgers.

Russell Martin

Russell Martin hits best off changeups when he swings: he swung at 108 (of the 242 seen) and got hits 21% of the time. On the other end, he hits least often when swinging at cutters (12% hits when swinging at 25 of 66 seen) and curveballs (12% hits when swinging at 50 of 172 pitches).

Strengths: Hits changeup effectively when in play, batting 0.489 (0.320 is avg). Hits well below the knees and outer half - 5 hits off his 30 swings there.

Other notes: Short and bulky body. Does not swing at pitches below the knees and inside half - only swung at 12 % of 107 pitches there (26% is avg). Does not swing at pitches above the zone and away half - only swung at 20 % of 170 pitches there (36% is avg).

Differences from last year: Hits best off CH - last year was FB. Hits worst off CB - last year was CH.

Over at Fangraphs, Martin was listed as below average on every type of pitch in 2009, but his fastball was best, at just 0.07 runs below average per 100 fastballs.  This differs from the info at Ariball, which suggest Martin performed best off changeups.  By contrast, Fangraphs had Martin at 0.50 runs below average per 100 changeups.  I guess if everyone agreed all the time, analyzing baseball wouldn't be nearly as interesting. 

I do like the tidbits from AriBall that Martin, known for his patience, lays off pitches low and inside, and high and away.  That's something to look for next time you see Martin in the batter's box.

Clayton Kershaw

Throws fastball 93-95mph (70% of all pitches, keeps it high to lefties, and causes lots of swings to miss), curveball 71-75 (18%, long sweeping break, keeps inside to righties), slider 78-83 (6%, slurvy slider, keeps high to righties), changeup 81-84 (5%).  2,874 total pitches (55% in the strike zone). Threw 364 of 662 first pitches for strikes (55%).

STRENGTHS: Great command of changeups. Does not allow HRs often - only 7 in 171 IP. Induces pop-ups often.

WEAKNESSES: Changeup release point has below avg deception relative to FB RP. Release point for slider is coming out 5.1". One of the walk leaders with 91.

HABITS: 2-0 throws FB to LHH 100%. 2-1 throws FB to LHH 100%. 3-0 ALWAYS throws FB to RHH 100%. 3-1 ALWAYS throws FB to LHH 100%.  Does not double-up on slider (1/4th as often as the MLB averge). Infrequently throws outside twice in a row.  Infrequently throws outside after inside. Worst count to steal off of is 0-2.  - he throws 19% of 42 pitches in potential SB opportunities high.

Locates changeups 8" down from the stretch.  FB is his most effective pitch - batters hit just 0.178 when put into play compared to 0.411 off his least effective pitch - changeup. Throws much more pitches per batter than average - 4.32 (3.83 is avg).

I'm not sure of the sample size, but it might behoove Kershaw to mix it up a bit if he falls behind 2-0, 2-1, or 3-1 to lefties.  According to AriBall, Kershaw threw a fastball to fellow southpaws every single time in those situations.

Chad Billingsley

Throws fastball 90-93mph (44% of all pitches), cutter 88-92 (21%), curveball 75-82 (22%, deceptive - causing many swings to miss), slider 84-90 (11% with plus command, and throws it hard).  Fastball is his most effective pitch - batters hit 0.344 when put into play compared to 0.415 off his least effect pitch - curveball. 3,237 total pitches (55% in the strike zone). Threw 480 of 802 first pitches for strikes (60%).

STRENGTHS: Durable, pitched 196 innings. 

WEAKNESSES: One of the walk leaders with 86.
HABITS: Likes to mix in cutters often - 21% - with average command. Does not double-up on Slider - only 12% of the time (41% is avg). Best count to steal off of is 0-1 when he tends to throw in the dirt in potential SB opportunities. Locates curveball 3" down and 5" more to the catchers right from the stretch.

OTHER NOTES: Heavier body. He mixes up his SL velocity broadly, usually by 6 mph. Gets good spin on CB (-18% above MLB avg.)

The strengths and weaknesses seem simplistic for Billingsley, but I find a lot of the interesting.  Specifically, the "habits" section is intriguing.  Like Kershaw, Billingsley doesn't throw back-to-back sliders very often.  I like the note about throwing his curve more down and away from righthanders from the stretch; that seems to jive with all those pitches in the dirt we all watched Russell Martin attempt to block last year.

I added a link to AriBall on the left sidebar on the front page under the "Stats/Reference" section.